Editorial: The White House and one little bird

From ANIMAL PEOPLE, January/February 2001:
“I am appalled,” Metro Humane Shelter founder Harrison Lloyd wrote to ANIMAL PEOPLE from Birmingham, Alabama, soon after the U.S. Supreme Court made George W. Bush the next U.S. President, “that you took a strong stand for the election of the Albert Gore/Joseph Lieberman ticket while slamming George W. Bush. You made a big issue of the fact that Bush killed one little bird in error, for which he paid a fine, but Gore and Lieberman are strong believers in murdering unborn human babies.”

Gore partisans accused us of Republicanism when from 1994 on we repeatedly pointed out his positions favoring Japanese, Norwegian, and Makah whalers. Gore backers were also ired when in 1999 we explained how many lab animals were to be killed as part of his High Production Volume chemical safety testing initiative. The HPV testing protocols were later amended, due to public protest, to use far fewer animals.

ANIMAL PEOPLE covers animal protection, as our title indicates. Abortion has never been within our scope, although we do not dismiss it as a moral issue.

The significance of that “one little bird” killed by Bush was meanwhile recognized by Michigan Humane Society lobbyist Eileen Liska, who after the election fought a bill to authorize a dove season which had already cleared the state House of Representatives. “I had a Democratic Senator get up on the floor to relate the story out of the December 2000 ANIMAL PEOPLE about Bush killing a [legally protected] killdeer instead of a dove,” Liska told us, after the bill failed in the state Senate by a single vote.

Bush, the 1999 Safari Club International “Governor of the Year,” shot the killdeer during a 1994 Texas gubernatorial race photo-op. But Bush was not shooting birds just to win hunters’ votes, as was former President Bill Clinton when he shot a cage-reared duck at a Maryland hunt club in December 1993. Bush is a lifelong hunter, who learned to shoot in childhood by killing frogs on the family lawn in Midland, Texas. For variety Bush and friends
also shoved firecrackers down the frogs’ throats and blew them up–as Nicholas D. Kristoff of The New York Times detailed in May 2000.

The Bush record on wildlife protection as Texas governor was little more enlightened. Notably, Bush helped stall bills to restrict canned hunts and exotic pet trafficking, and repeatedly blocked Endangered Species Act enforcement. Endangered Species Coalition executive director Brock Evans, for one, thinks U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service chief Jamie Rappaport Clark imposed a year-long moratorium on new endangered species listings on November 17, 2000 not only due to lack of budget, as she declared, but also in anticipation that gutting the ESA will be a Bush priority.

Vice President Dick Cheney, like Bush, is an avid hunter. The U.S. has not had a White House team who both actively killed wildlife since before the passage of the 1918 Migratory Bird Treaty Act. Even if the National Rifle Association does not work “right out of the White House,” as NRA official Kayne Robinson in early 2000 boasted it would in a Bush administration, Bush and Cheney can be expected to aggressively push hunting.

The Clinton/Gore administration was scarcely innocent of pandering to hunters. Clinton opened more National Wildlife Refuges to hunting than any previous president. Then, as parting shot, Clinton pardoned Alfred Whitney Brown III, 46, who was convicted in 1991 of leading 42 hunters in shooting doves over a baited field. Clinton pardoned Brown specifically so that he could resume his former career as a teacher of hunting skills.

Although Gore successfully defended the Endangered Species Act against Republican efforts to dismantle it, the Clinton/Gore record on animal issues was otherwise weak–until “lame duck” status seemed to markedly increase the Clinton empathy quotient. A reminder of the lack of budget and high-up support afflicting the USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service throughout the Clinton years came on December 22, when Clinton pardoned Tyson Foods executive Archie Schaeffer III. Schaeffer was imprisoned for a year and fined $5,000 for allegedly trying to bribe former Agriculture Secretary Mike Espy, as Tyson Foods sought to escape more stringent health and safety regulation.

More of the same can be expected under Bush. On December 15, Environmental Protection Agency assistant administrator Walter J. Charles Fox proposed new feedlot manure disposal regulations, calling factory farms “among the greatest threats to our nation’s water.” Meat industry lobbyists screamed for his head. As well as opposing the new EPA rules, the American Meat Institute and two other meat fronts asked the Bush administration to roll back salmonella testing standards adopted by the USDA in mid-2000.

But the just-ended 106th Congress passed a record 10 pro-animal bills, according to the Fund for Animals, Humane Society of the U.S., and Doris Day Animal League. Among them, all quickly signed by Clinton, were:

* The Great Ape Protection Act, to fund African conservation projects;
* A ban on imports of dog or cat fur;
* A ban on killing sharks in Hawaiian waters just to take their fins, reinforcing similar bans in effect in Atlantic, Caribbean, and Gulf of Mexico waters since 1993;
* A bill to protect federal contraband-sniffing dogs from violence;
* A bill to allow retired military dogs to be adopted out;
* $800,000 in seed funding for the proposed $7 million Cape Cod National Marine Life Center, which is to rehabilitate stranded marine mammals and sea turtles;
* A bill forming the Interagency Coordinating Committee for the Validation of Alternative Methods as a standing committee within the National Institutes of Health;
* Florida manateee and Everglades habitat protection measures in the Interior and Related Agencies Appropriations Act and Water Resources Development Act; and
* The Chimpanzee Health Improvement, Maintenance and Protection Act, called a victory by HSUS and DDAL even though it was amended to allow the NIH to keep custody of the chimps who are to be “retired” from lab use, and to permit the NIH to yank them back into
invasive research at any time. Seemingly dead before the election recess, the so-called Chimp Retirement Act was revived and pushed through post-election despite the opposition of the International Primate Protection League, Primarily Primates, Wild Animal Orphanage, and virtually every other organization which shelters ex-lab primates.

Clinton also signed a $175 billion budget for seven federal departments which was delayed by Senator Ted Stevens (R-Alaska) until the White House accepted an amendment easing fishing restrictions imposed to protect endangered Stellar sea lions. The amendment allocated $44 million to study Stellar sea lions, including asking whether they could be saved by killing orca whales, their major predator and food rival.

But on December 4 Clinton by executive order created the 84-million-acre Pacific Ocean Preserve around the northwestern Hawaiian Islands. Including 70% of the coral reefs in U.S. waters, the preserve is off limits to oil and gas exploration, mining, refuse dumping, and any increase in fishing. It protects critical habitat for the Hawaiian monk seal, humpback whale, and many endangered or threatened birds.

On January 5, Clinton ordered that 58.5 million acres of National Forest in 38 states shall remain roadless, including 9.3 million acres of the Tongass National Forest in Alaska. No roads means no logging. That hit wise-users in the wallet–especially Senator Frank Murkowski (R-Alaska), whose career has been built around logging in the Tongass. The “roadless” order covered 31% of all Forest Service land, including prime habitat for pine marten, prairie dogs, lynx, wolves, and grizzly bears. Thus the order reinforced the “final plan” for relocating at least 25 grizzlies into the Bitterroot mountains of Idaho and Montana, announced on November 16, 2000 by the Fish and Wildlife Service.

The grizzly reintroduction has long been urged by departing Interior Secretary Bruce Babbitt but is opposed by Idaho and Montana governors Dirk Kempthorne and Marc Raciot–both Republicans–and by the five Republicans (including three Senators) among the six Idaho
and Montana members of Congress, all firmly behind the wise-use agenda.

A committee of 250 leading scientists in November 2000 asked Clinton to declare the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge a National Monument, but Clinton was expected to deny the request after Babbitt advised him that the National Monument designation would not thwart
Republican efforts to open the refuge to oil drilling. Oil exploration in either a National Wildlife Refuge or a National Monument would require an Act of Congress.

On November 22, meanwhile, the Clinton administration quietly completed a two-year effort to reacquire the oil drilling leases granted by the Ronald Reagan administration in the Outer Banks off North Carolina–an area especially vulnerable to storms and spill damage. The late former Interior Secretary James Watt issued the leases in 1981-1983.

Passing the torch–and the buck

A December 29 Clinton request to Congress for sanctions against the makers of equipment used by Japanese “research” whalers amounted to passing the buck. Japanese “research” whaling has now been certified as ripe for U.S. sanctions in 1988, 1995, and 2000, but the Clinton administration did not enforce the 1995 certification, while the 1988 and 2000 certifications were issued just as Presidents Reagan and Clinton left office.

George W. Bush is no more likely to enforce sanctions against Japanese whaling than his father was. And Bush signaled clear intent to push a wise-use agenda by selecting Gale Norton as Interior Secretary. An attorney, Norton began her career under the late James Watt at the Mountain States Legal Foundation; allegedly advocated selling the National Park system while workng for the Political Economy Research Center; and since 1998 has chaired the Coalition of Republican Environmental Advocates, a political action committee reportedly funded mainly by energy, mining, and logging interests.

Bush named fellow wise-user Spencer Abraham as Energy Secretary.Both Norton and Abraham, like Bush and Cheney, are committed to opening oil drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.

Bush, Cheney, and Norton are also expected to endorse the efforts of the International Snowmobiling Manufacturers Association, the Blue Ribbon Coalition, and other wise-use fronts to overturn National Park Service plans to ban snowmobiles from Yellowstone, Grand Teton, and other ecologically sensitive parks, and to prevent the Bureau of Land Management from enacting an off-road vehicle management plan announced on December 11. The BLM plan would allow field managers to restrict off-road vehicle use to protect wildlife and habitat.

Virtually the last act of the departed 106th Congress was the passage of a budget bill rider by Senator Craig Thomas (R-Wyoming) which prevents the National Park Service from finalizing or enforcing an anti-snowmobile rule before July 31, 2001. This bought time for
Bush and Norton to bring the Park Service and BLM under their thumbs.

But not all Republican leaders are hellbent on dismantling habitat protection. On December 6, for instance, Clinton signed a bill sponsored by Senator Wayne Allard (R-Colorado) which elevated the Great Sand Dunes Monument in southern Colorado to National Park status, and authorized spending $8.5 million to add 100,000 acres to it. The 39-square-mile park harbors seven endangered species, plus deer, elk, foxes, beavers, pumas, coyotes, and bighorn sheep. One key distinction between a National Park and a National Monument is that National Parks are normally not open to hunting.

On December 11, Florida Governor Jeb Bush, younger brother of George W. Bush, visited the White House to watch Clinton sign the bill meant to help the Everglades and Florida manatees. Jeb Bush has said he favors better protecting manatees from speedboats, their
leading cause of death and injury–but whether he means it enough to fight the two-stroke engine crowd remains to be seen.

The Republicans hold the Presidency, the House majority, and a one-vote Senate majority–if all Republican Senators vote together, with Cheney as tie-breaker. This gives the Bush administration the potential to wreak havoc with U.S. animal and habitat protection law, but also gives individual Senators–both Republicans and Democrats–unprecedented leverage to influence legislation.

In turn, the 50/50 balance in the Senate puts a premium on effective lobbying, by individuals as well as groups, because just one Senator from either party can potentially change the fate of any bill.

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